Friday, June 17, 2005

The Coldfire Trilogy, C. S. Friedman

Title: The Coldfire Trilogy
Author: C. S. Friedman
Rating: Good

Years ago I stumbled across C. S. Friedman when I read In Conquest Born. I found that book to be interesting, with powerful characters and an interesting story. In short, it had everything going for it except a very weak ending. Regardless, I liked her writing enough to pick up a couple of other books by her at the time -- they turned out to be the first 2 volumes of the Coldfire trilogy. I'll review all 3 books here in brief, and that makes sense, since I only read the last book for the first time in 2005.

The books are:
  • Black Sun Rising
  • When True Night Falls
  • Crown of Shadows
These books straddle the Science Fiction / Fantasy boundary, crossing more into Fantasy in general. The world she creates is rich and deep, though not as deep as those created by Tolkien or Donaldson.

The main characters in the first book are an interesting pair: a hero (Damien Vryce) and an anti-hero (Gerald Tarrant) forced to work together by circumstance. I found Vryce appealing but slightly less well fleshed out as a character than Tarrant. When she writes of Damien's past experiences it seems he hasn't lived long enough to do all she attributes to him. Tarrant, however, is much more believable in that area. The third book adds another main character -- Andrys Tarrant. He is less well fleshed out than the others, but still acceptable in form and style.

The story spans several years on another planet, seeded by earth and then lost for reasons that are explained in some detail. This isn't as huge and sweeping a story as, say, Dune, but it provides lots of opportunities to meet new people, some interesting demons, and understand some of the world they live in (called Erna).

In all, I recommend these books for some light fantasy reading. The story is reasonably paced and the characters are interesting. The conclusion is reasonable, though there is a single syrupy chapter at the end of Crown of Shadows that I'd have omitted if I were the author.

The most disturbing thing about these books has nothing to do with the writing. The cover of each book has a painting of Gerald Tarrant by Michael Whelan. The cover of When True Night Falls clearly makes him look like John Travolta. That's just wrong, in far too many ways to itemize here, and it's entirely different from the other two covers. Ah well.

Give 'em a try if fantasy literature is your bag.